Personal Assistance Service (PAS) | 2200 West Main Street | Erwin Square Tower | 4th Floor, Suite 400A | Durham, NC 27705 | 919-416-1PAS (919-416-1727)

Normal Reactions to Suicide

Normal grief reactions following any sudden death include shock/disbelief, anger, guilt, sadness, fear, and depression (see: Grief in the Workplace). Loss of someone to suicide often brings additional complications to the grieving process. Normal grief reactions to suicide may include any of the following:

Anger

Some people feel immense anger at the person who committed suicide. "How could they leave me alone to carry on by myself?" "Why didn't they tell me something was wrong?" Other people may feel anger at someone or something that they feel has contributed to the distress of the suicide victim. Displaced anger is not uncommon as individuals struggle to make sense of the suicide.

Guilt

Many people experience a sense of guilt after a suicide. "Why didn't I notice something was wrong?" "Why didn't I call that night?" Some people may feel guilty that they are angry at the individual. Sometimes people feel guilty when they are secretly relieved to no longer have to deal with threats of suicide, or constant emotional upheaval.

Shame

Family members may experience shame about suicide, feeling that other people are judging them or their loved one. This feeling can be intensified by the misunderstanding and stigma attached to suicide.

Who's Next?

When suicide comes with no apparent warning signs, and someone you like and admire commits suicide, it can shake your sense of stability to the core. It is not uncommon to look at other people and wonder, "if Ricardo killed himself, how do I know Joe won't?"

Why?

Questioning any death is normal, and it is not unusual for suicides to elicit a lot of questions. Some people become focused on questions such as "Why?", "What was the person thinking?", "Why didn't she talk about it?" It is hard living with uncertainty and it is human nature to want to understand things. Very often with suicide such questions cannot be answered.

While these reactions are normal, if you find yourself getting stuck or the reactions persist and interfere in your life, you may want to consult with a grief counselor. Duke employees and family members may contact Duke PAS.